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About one in five teachers work second jobs to supplement teaching income

September 4, 2018

Heather Goodwin-Nelson has been teaching for 18 years. She got her teaching degree and teaching license in Hawaii, where she grew up, and has since worked in Utah in both public and private schools.

For the past seven years, Goodwin-Nelson has taught at the Utah Virtual Academy. Since becoming the sole provider for her children seven years ago, she’s needed ways to supplement her teaching income.

She’s tried many avenues to add to her teaching income, from plasma donation, which she still bears the scars from, to professional development opportunities that included stipends.

Goodwin-Nelson is currently working on an assessment job, which is ideal because she can do it online. At least once a year, she attempts to do out-of-state assessments, which can mean reviewing content for bias and sensitivity or accessibility for students with a disability, or to see if it aligns with core standards.

Sometimes, volunteering becomes a sort of second job to help her child get a discount to participate in a sport or other activity.

“I’ve worked whatever jobs I can that allow me to be flexible for my kids, but still bring in some additional funds and not contradict my contract with the school I’m working with,” Goodwin-Nelson said.

Goodwin-Nelson is far from alone in her effort to keep side streams of income flowing in. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, about 18 percent of teachers nationwide have some kind of second job, earning an average of $5,100 annually from jobs outside their school system.

Why do teachers need second jobs?

Nearly every teacher either works a second job or knows a teacher who does.

Scott Neilson, who teaches in Nebo School District and also serves on the Utah State Board of Education, said he had a hard time thinking of a teacher he knew who didn’t work during the summer. Neilson himself works part-time as an intelligence officer in the Utah National Guard.

“I’m sure they’re out there, I just don’t know them,” Neilson said. “If you are a family man with three kids making $45,000 a year, you’re going to use that time in the summer to not only work, but also spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for classes.”

Many of those who hold second jobs in the summer are self-employed, Neilson said. Teachers he know do anything from running firework stands, working construction or tutoring during the summertime.

Tom Porter has two additional income streams in addition to his full-time position teaching Spanish at Maple Mountain High School in Spanish Fork.

Tom Porter conducts Spanish interviews with Brigham Young University students in his free time. He can schedule the interviews at times that work for him, making it a relatively convenient second source of income.

On top of that, however, Tom Porter also has a lawn mowing business he runs with his kids from about May through November. The lawn-mowing business was started partially to teach his kids about money, but also because of the need for additional income.

Though Tom Porter enjoys lawn-mowing as a break from what he normally does, it overlaps with the school year for at least a couple months a year. Between that and the five to seven hours a week he spends teaching online for BYU, it can take a toll on the time he spends with his family.

Consequences of having multiple jobs?

Amy Porter, Tom Porter’s wife, says she and the kids would have definitely preferred Tom Porter have a 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. day at the school, then be done. Instead, he comes home and often works on other things.

“I would say our kids, especially some of the older ones, would have preferred that he only had one job to focus on so that they could have more interacting time in the evenings with him,” Amy Porter said.

The summer is more relaxed, but during the school year, Porter might have a hectic day at school, then rush home to load up the kids to go mow before it gets dark. If it’s not a mow day, he might have an interview to conduct for BYU.

“I think their perception is, all I ever do is work,” Tom Porter said. “We’ll get up in the morning and we’ll work, if it’s not here at the school then we’re going to mow lawns, and if it’s not that then I’m on the computer doing BYU independent study. Their perception is that dad spends a lot of time, too much time, working. I think that’s probably the largest drawback.”

Amy Porter sees another interesting side effect: None of their six children have shown any desire to become a teacher.

“The sad thing is that you’re maybe losing people who could be teachers if they’re familiar with that family life,” Amy Porter said. “They have no desire to do that because they don’t want to have to work all the time.”

For Goodwin-Nelson, some of the cons of spending extra time searching for and completing side gigs is that it puts her in a lot of different places at one time.

She has learned to compartmentalize in order to get everything done she needs to, Goodwin-Nelson said, but not everyone is able to do that.

Are there solutions?

Goodwin-Nelson believes part of the reason teachers are paid a salary that often necessitates a supplemental income is that teaching is an undervalued profession — a glorified babysitting job.

“In some ways, being a teacher is not deemed as a solid profession, and it is marginalized,” Goodwin-Nelson said. “Everyone equates professional worth to pay.

“I wish there was a little more celebration and respect for the amount of work that our teachers do,” Goodwin-Nelson said. “Because every person can link their memories of school to either a teacher or a really bad experience with a teacher. Those are formative moments in our lives that we build a lot of our professional interactions later on because of that moment.”

Neilson said teachers can make a living, but not a great one. One solution many friends of his have had is to seek to go into school administration in order to get paid more.

“I’m guilty as charged,” Neilson said. “I’ve been looking to go into administration. That seems to be the story of a lot of teachers. There’s a lot of really good teachers out there, but once they get four kids and a mortgage, they start getting the need for more income and a lot of really, really good ones leave the classroom to go into admin.”

Whether there are solutions to keep teachers from needing to work side jobs is a hard question, Tom Porter said.

He also said it would be nice to be paid enough that he felt he could support his family and still do a few “fun” things with the family without having second jobs.

“Everybody would like to receive a higher wage,” Tom Porter said. “But that’s hard because in order for that to happen, we are paid from taxpayers. So you are going to have to increase the taxes for the taxpayers, which, nobody wants that.”

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